Police don't become friends with the men they arrest. But that's exactly what happened to Reggie Graham and Cory Long.
|Back to front: Undercover cop Reggie Graham (left) embraces Cory Long this past Sunday morning.|
PW has covered stories Graham's been involved in over the years, including a fantastic foot chase in which he pursued a suspected gunman over several city blocks. "I caught him and knocked him down three times," Graham said afterward, "but he kept popping right back up and running."
Narcotics squads require police to play various roles. Running faster than anyone he meets in the streets is just one of the attributes Graham brings to his squad. His martial arts training can also be relied upon to end altercations quickly and with minimal damage when a suspect starts swinging. He's also one of the squad's best interrogators, able to win the confidence of men whose entire lives as drug dealers are based upon mistrust.
But only those who've watched his work closely could see in Graham the possibility that he would ever become friends with Cory Long.
Long was raised by his grandparents in Chester, a city rife with drug dealing and violence. He's attended the funerals of five friends over the years. At least a dozen kids he knew in school are now in jail. His grandmother tried to get him involved in the church there, but it didn't take. He attended school, but studying held little appeal. He was most interested in the streets and music. And for a while he had both.
Known as DJ Cory Ak, he gauged his success by the ages and reps of the hustlers who attended his parties. His own arrest record is short, including the night Graham arrested him and a 1999 shooting charge that was later withdrawn. But he admits to sporadically dealing drugs over the years, and is forthright when discussing his reasons for taking to the streets.
While many dealers insist they first slung product to eat or afford the fashions of the day, he says he really doesn't have an excuse. "My grandparents were kinda strict, and I was rebelling," he says. "I knew I was wrong, but it was an adrenaline rush. I just told myself, 'All the guys are doing this. I'm getting my own money.'"
By the time he was 24, dealing drugs seemed a thing of the past. "I was two, three years removed from all that stuff," says Long. "I had money, cars, a name ... "
Working at Power 99 FM, Cory Ak was for a time one of the hottest DJs in the city. He and Graham almost met back then. Graham loved to go out dancing, and some nights he came into clubs like Chrome and Pegasus, where DJ Ak ("the party don't stop until 2 o'clock") was playing. The cop took one look at the crowd and turned on his heel. "I would see all the hustlers in there," says Graham, "and it wasn't some place I wanted to be."
"We wouldn't have mixed then," says Long today. "Me and a cop? I wouldn't have been ready."
Long had people lining up to be his friend. He often DJed alongside New York's famous Funkmaster Flex. A good week planning, promoting and performing at parties could earn him as much as $10,000. By his old standards life was great. But this is Philadelphia, and anyone making that kind of money in city clubs falls under scrutiny.
|The matchmaker: Cheryl Smith (right) reintroduced Graham and Long after the arrest.|
"The streets is watching," they say. Long heard the talk: This guy from Chester. Coming to Philly and making too much money. Somebody should hurt him.
Long's a big guy--more than 6 feet tall and 270 pounds. But in the streets size doesn't matter. A friend hooked Long up with some guys to act as his muscle. "I thought at the time, if I brought in real security--you know, professional security guards from a reputable company--I'd look like a punk," he says. "But now I look back and realize there was no other way. Just bring in real security."
Trouble came down one night in September 2002 at the Delaware Avenue club Chrome. A promoter came onstage to hype an upcoming show while Long was DJing. His new muscle viewed it as a challenge. An argument started, which escalated into an all-out brawl, and soon 10 people were onstage trading punches. Long knew what he needed to do--leave. He walked out back and asked the opening DJ to finish his set.
It seemed inevitable the fight would continue at some future date. That made it tough for Long to hold a job because no one wanted to be near him the night this battle ended.
He tried to start over, moving to the then-new 103.9 the Beat in November of that same year, but the demographics weren't the same. "My following was still geared toward Power 99," he says. "They never made the transition."
His shows started tanking--losing money at a time when he needed to make money more than ever. By this point in his career Long had accumulated enormous expenses--$10,000 a month, he estimates, including an office on City Avenue with a receptionist and an accountant. He was also floating the salary and recording expenses for a rap group he wanted to form the cornerstone of his record label Bomb Threat Entertainment.
Today he smiles softly as he utters that name. "That's who I was," he says. Back then such a rough, street-hard name fit Long. So when a friend who took part in the Chrome debacle introduced him to some investors Long knew were drug dealers, he accepted.